NAPLES, FLA. — At the American Bakers Association’s annual convention, held April 7-9 in Naples, attendees heard from a panel of customers on what they find to be their most pressing issues and how baked foods manufacturers can help them address those challenges.

Ranier Glaubitz, international commercial and food services manager, SPAR International, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Matthew Riddleberger, vice-president, supply chain services, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Firehouse Restaurant Group; and Sam Mayberry, president, Sam Mayberry Consulting, a Seattle-based e-commerce consultant, discussed the role that baked foods can play in the market, with on-the-go meals and on consumers’ plates.

 Mr. Riddleberger identified consumer behavior as juxtaposed between “wants versus wallet,” he said.

“Everyone says they want certain things, but when it comes time to pay for it, it becomes a whole different ballgame,” he noted.

One of the biggest challenges, he pointed out, was determining where, when and how much product food service operators need to make.

Third-party vendors such as Uber Eats and GrubHub have become major players for the shifting destinations, Mr. Riddleberger added, noting that three years ago, Firehouse Subs did not offer delivery. Today, it’s 6% of its sales.

“The vast majority of that is all done with third-party delivery,” he said.

This can present a challenge from a business perspective because these services can ultimately take as much as 30% of a total ring at food service, Mr. Riddleberger observed.

“It’s very difficult to make that profitable,” he said. “We have found we need to do it by not adding any labor to the equation … we have to do it without adding labor, so we’re open to a lot of efficiencies that we can do.”

Mr. Mayberry noted that luring consumers to a bakery’s web site eventually will expand a business’ trade area without sacrificing the bricks and mortar.

“To develop products that attract consumers, you do the same steps,” he said. “But if you don’t customize them for your unique offering and skillset, you will fall behind.”

As long as a bakery hits the right audience with the appropriate products targeted for the correct opportunity, e-commerce can create a new trade area outside a bakery’s traditional geography.

“It’s all about creating an experience,” he said. “And there are no trade areas on e-commerce.”

A grocery retailer located in a number of locations throughout Great Britain, SPAR is composed of three bakery business models: traditional fully equipped artisan production facility, a bakeoff setup in the in-store bakery department of certain locations and a hybrid model that combines the benefits of a manufacturing facility with the retail model.

Under these formats, Mr. Glaubitz identified opportunities for the bakery department to play a role in the dinner occasion, especially when rapidly evolving consumer preferences are causing major shifts in sales destinations for baked foods.

“We, as bakers, need to drive consumers here,” he suggested. “The bakery department can be a real profit driver toward overall store performance.”  

This can, at times, require creating a whole new culture, Mr. Glaubitz pointed out.

He identified three ways to make that happen — collaboration, credibility and creating a hybrid experience.

To create strategic growth in bakery, Mr. Glaubitz suggested that retailers need to build authority among departments.

“Then we need to bring the categories together, such as bringing the in-store fresh bakery together with the aisle to create a combined shopping experience,” he said.

Mr. Glaubitz noted that this strategy can result in an increase in sales of up to 2%.

“This can be done with no additional footfall and minimal investment,” Mr. Glaubitz said. “It’s really powerful. I call it ‘the convenience purchase at an arm’s length.’”

He also suggested making baked foods prominent at the front of the store. Just as e-commerce and food service are finding new ways to meet consumers where they are, there are opportunities to make bakery highly visible in the brick-and-mortar outlet as well.

“We need to hit the shopper more frequently, before and after the main shopping event,” he said. “That’s where we can gain traction.”